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Polluter Doesn’t Pay: The Rockhopper v Italy Award

Last August, an ICSID tribunal handed down its much-anticipated ECT-based award in the dispute between Rockhopper, a British oil and gas company, and the Italian Republic. Rockhopper had been denied a licence to exploit an offshore oilfield, due to legislation banning oil production concessions within a certain distance from the coastline. The ban was adopted as a result of intense popular campaigning from regional and local authorities, and environmental, religious and civic associations, who had successfully requested a referendum on the matter. According to the award, which was only published in November, Rockhopper had met all the conditions set by Italian law to be granted the licence, so the denial amounted to an unlawful expropriation. It therefore awarded €185 million in compensation (over €240 million with interest). Given these ingredients (democratic politics, climate change legislation, fossil fuel corporate power), it is not surprising that the dispute has generated huge interest, with the press reporting on the ‘outrage’ sparked by Rockhopper’s claim, and on the widespread criticism immediately met by the award.

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The Forever Negotiations

A major question coming out of the 2015 Paris conference was whether the Paris Agreement represented a meeting of the minds and would provide a stable framework for international cooperation on climate change going forward, or whether it papered over differences and left crucial issues unresolved.  For twenty-five years, states had engaged in an almost continuous process of…

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The Competence of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in its New Advisory Proceedings on Climate Change

On the sidelines of last year’s COP26, Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu concluded the Agreement for the Establishment of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (‘the Agreement’ establishing ‘the Commission’). The Agreement is open to signature by all 39 members of the Alliance of Small Island States, and currently also includes…

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A guide to tackling the collective causation problem in international climate change litigation

In the wide variety of arguments that defendants have brought up in climate change litigation, one argument is a constant. This is the argument that climate change is a problem of collective causation. That is: climate change harm is caused by actions and omissions of many actors and it would be scientifically impossible to attribute specific climate…

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The Protection of the Atmosphere and the ‘Regressive’ Development of International Law

In a few weeks, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-27) will be convening in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. States will negotiate higher ambitions on mitigation, adaptation, and climate finance, in an attempt to curtail the apocalyptic consequences of climate change. In this context, the identification of relevant principles of international law is necessary and will provide timely…

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